Exhibition Fratures Basquiat Notebooks

MIAMI.- Beginning August 12 through October 16, 2016, Pérez Art Museum Miami will present Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, an exhibition showcasing Jean-Michel Basquiat’s rarely seen notebooks, filled with poetry fragments, wordplay, sketches and personal observations.

These unique documents offer an intimate look to the artist’s oeuvre, embodying themes of street life, popular culture, world history, race and class. This exhibition features 160 notebook pages, related objects, works on paper and large-scale paintings.

Complementing the exhibition, PAMM has added works from Miami including collaborative paintings made by Basquiat and Andy Warhol and other works that speak to the breadth of this important artist’s career.

“We are thrilled to be able to host this important exhibition on a foundational period in the life of one of our country’s, and the world’s, greatest artists,” said PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans. “While the show opened appropriately in Brooklyn, where the artist was born, Miami is the perfect host for the conclusion of this show. Basquiat’s face is on murals in our city, a city which boasts Little Haiti and Little Havana, monikers for the country and city of those places not far away.”

Cultural Icon

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988), a cultural icon, is one of the most original, influential and prolific artists of his generation. Born in Brooklyn to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat was raised in a cross-cultural and multilingual family becoming fluent in Haitian Creole, Spanish and English—languages that resonate within Miami’s cultural landscape.

In the early 1980s, he rose quickly from teenage street artist to a celebrity in both the art scene and popular culture.

He was a self-taught artist with encyclopedic and multicultural interests, influenced by comics, advertising, children's sketches, Pop art, hip-hop, politics and everyday life. He is best known for combining vibrant colors, abstract gestures and figuration with language, which often appears in his paintings and drawings in at least one of his three spoken languages.

His handwritten texts are an integral part of his work, as these push the between language and drawing, as well as reveal the artist’s provocative cultural imaginary.

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks emphasizes the artist’s distinct interplay of text and images, providing unprecedented insight into the importance of writing in the Basquiat’s process. The works in the exhibition render an intimate view to the artist’s ability to generate rhythm and poetics using words.

The notebook pages contain early renderings of iconic imagery—tepees, crowns, skeleton-like figures and grimacing faces—that also appear throughout his large-scale works, including an early drawing related to his famous series, Famous Negro Athletes. Additionally, the exhibition at PAMM includes two paintings made in collaboration with Andy Warhol, exemplifying his collaborative relationship to this other artistic icon.

Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks provides a significant opportunity to view these remarkable notebooks up close, inviting new insights and perspectives on Basquiat’s art and his extraordinary talent of using “words like brushstrokes,” as he once famously said.

In Miami, this is also an opportunity to reconsider Basquiat’s rich cultural background, familiar to the local context and expressed in his exceptional legacy.

Highlights from Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks include:

• The Notebooks—Over a 160 pages of personal notebooks belonging to the artist, providing insight into Basquiat’s relationship to language and drawing, as well as his interest in addressing race, politics, and everyday subjects.

• Untitled, 1983—A large-scale work, embodying the artist’s interest in masks, words and painting.

• Untitled (Black), 1981—An earlier large-scale painting illustrating Basquiat’s fascination with colors, figuration and abstraction.

• Untitled (Crown), 1982—A collage and drawing depicting the artist’s famous crown tag.

Famous Negro Athletes, 1981—An early drawing illustrating the artist’s interest in addressing the complexities of the black experience in contemporary culture.

Photo above: Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960–1988). All Beef, 1983. Oil, acrylic, oilstick and nail on canvas mounted on wood, 72 3/4 x 39 1/8 x 21 1/2 in. (184.8 x 99.4 x 54.6 cm). Private collection, courtesy of Lio Malca. Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo: Mark-Woods.com